Understanding the Full-Chain Gaming in One Article
Understanding Full-Chain Gaming in One Article
Blockchain games are an innovative form of gaming that has attracted the attention of gamers from all over. Gaming giants such as Square Enix, Nexon, and Ubisoft have all been trying this cutting-edge technology.
However, for most games, blockchain is not a panacea. Currently, most first-person shooter games cannot run on the blockchain. The speed of the blockchain is too slow to support smooth gameplay, and it is completely unrealistic to use blockchain to achieve sub-second player reaction times. Therefore, most blockchain games are actually using blockchain as one of their technology stacks, with the main purpose being to distribute and transfer digital assets and currency in the game.
Most blockchain games combine blockchain technology with traditional game servers to ensure players’ ownership of game items.
However, now there is a small group of Web3-native game developers and players who are trying to create a pure on-chain gaming experience, and this group is growing. We also refer to this type of blockchain game as a “full-chain game.”
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What is a full-chain game?
A full-chain game refers to a game and NFT ecosystem that runs entirely on the blockchain. That is, the game runs entirely on the blockchain, except for the front end (i.e., what the game players see on their screens).
In a full-chain game, all player actions and data are recorded on the chain instead of on game servers.
The main difference between a full-chain game and a traditional blockchain game is that the former directly puts the game logic in smart contracts, and uses NFT smart contracts to store game data such as player names and rankings on the blockchain instead of centralized game servers. A game can only be called a “full-chain game” when all of its game logic and data are stored on the chain.
How does a full-chain game work?
A full-chain game stores game logic and data entirely through smart contracts (note: smart contracts automatically execute lines of code on the blockchain).
In a broad sense, game logic determines the rules of a game, that is: if it is an online card game (TCG), then the game logic determines how each match starts, how cards are played in what order, and when the match ends. Rules are the soul of a game. In a full-chain game, these rules are written into smart contracts, and no one can tamper with them.
Traditional blockchain games have both smart contracts and game servers, while full-chain games only use blockchain and smart contracts.
Smart contracts can also be used to create, allocate, and transfer digital assets. In the card game mentioned above, the digital asset is the NFT card for trading. Digital assets are the most widely used technology in the field of blockchain games, and various NFT games including Gods Unchained, Axie Infinity, Illuvium, WildCard, and Deadrop have applied such assets.
Challenges for full-chain games
Why are most games not full-chain games so far? This is because full-chain games are full of challenges, and developers must comply with very strict technical specifications, while the user experience of players will also be greatly reduced.
Speed and Scalability of Blockchain
Blockchain is a shared computer network maintained by thousands of computer nodes worldwide. Therefore, it has bottlenecks in terms of speed and scalability, and speed and scalability are two key technical elements for creating fast-paced games.
These technical bottlenecks also mean that today’s full-chain games are limited to games where players take turns to initiate operations, such as card games or strategy games. The speed of smart contracts cannot support fast-paced games such as multiplayer online battle arena games (MOBA), first-person shooter games (FPS), or even real-time strategy games (RTS).
Transparent Player Operations
Smart contracts and transactions in contracts are completely transparent and visible to anyone. Transparency is an advantage in financial scenarios, but it becomes a bottleneck in game scenarios because privacy cannot be guaranteed.
For example, the fog of war mechanism in multiplayer online battle arena games or real-time strategy games is almost impossible to implement on the chain, and these games need to hide some game content from players. Of course, some technical solutions can be adopted to solve occasional problems, but this still cannot completely solve the privacy issues in full-chain games.
The design mechanism of the full-chain game and smart contract leads to the coexistence of robots and real game players, because there is no centralized entity to operate anti-cheating software. This will lead to a poor experience for some game players, especially when rare digital assets or NFTs are rewarded in the game, the robots will become more rampant because of the rich rewards.
Due to the design of security as the top priority, there are some technical bottlenecks that cannot perform certain tasks in blockchain and smart contracts.
The two biggest bottlenecks for full-chain games are obtaining tamper-proof random numbers and automatically executing game logic.
Almost all full-chain games must use on-chain random number solutions, and these random numbers are often manipulated by validators (or miners) in the network because they can see the random numbers before the end of the chain.
Some intermediate process operations in the game (such as transmitting a series of game logic based on player operations) require automatic invocation of smart contract functions to improve the game experience. However, smart contracts and blockchains themselves cannot perform these operations. For example, if a player harvests a certain asset, an automatic operation of harvesting the asset must be initiated before the asset appears in the player’s inventory.
At this point, blockchain oracle networks such as Chainlink can play a key role in enriching the on-chain game functions. Chainlink can provide secure on-chain access to these critical game functions.
Advantages of Full-chain Games
Although developing full-chain games requires overcoming many challenges, the full-chain game ecology can combine the advantages of blockchain and smart contracts to provide a range of values to players and developers.
Composability and Open Source
Since the full-chain game deploys the entire game on the blockchain, players and developers can replicate the game logic, create new types of games, develop different interfaces based on game development, and develop various applications based on game development to improve the game experience, enhance the openness and entertainment of the game.
Therefore, blockchain games can also be seen as a kind of “game primitive”. Like fantasy games such as “Dungeons & Dragons,” blockchain games can also provide players with a set of fixed and unchanging game rules, and players can continue to create on top of these rules.
Decentralization, digital perpetuity, and tamper resistance
One often overlooked aspect of blockchain games is that once they are deployed on the chain, they can basically run automatically.
As long as there are validators in the blockchain network, it can be online forever, which provides eternal data protection for blockchain games. As long as the blockchain is still running, the game code can run forever. In theory, if the blockchain on which the game is based can continue to run for the next three hundred years, then this game and its logic will continue to exist and be stored on the blockchain, and players can continue to play.
Low-risk technological innovation
Because the blockchain environment is vulnerable to various attacks and blockchain protects huge assets, it is a very difficult task to put theoretical research into practice, especially when attempting to apply new technology in decentralized finance (DeFi) field with high risk.
Blockchain games provide a low-risk environment for researchers and developers to explore cutting-edge technologies such as zero-knowledge proofs and homomorphic encryption. Blockchain games and DeFi applications with higher risks are often in the same infrastructure, but the former has lower risks and is therefore a better test field.
Diverse game front-end interfaces
Blockchain and smart contracts are essentially backend technologies. If players want to play the most pure on-chain games, they must interact with them through the command line.
Tech-savvy players and developers can develop different front-end interfaces based on the same chain game logic and data. They only need to connect the game front-end interface to the backend smart contract. Therefore, the same on-chain game can have multiple game interfaces. Two players can play the same game, but one plays in a medieval game scene and the other plays in a space game scene.
Full-chain Game Case Study
The first full-chain game appeared in 2013, and since then, this field has been constantly developing.
HunterCoin was released in 2013 and is widely regarded as the first full-chain game. This game was an experimental attempt to demonstrate the potential of decentralized game development. The game is deployed on its own blockchain, and player operations in the game, such as movement, collection, and attack, are all submitted in the form of transactions.
The game world of HunterCoin
Dark Forest is a relatively recent real-time strategy full-chain game set in space. This game is inspired by Liu Cixin’s science fiction novel “The Three-Body Problem–The Dark Forest”. Players are placed on an unknown planet in space and the task is to gather resources, expand territory, and occupy new planets.
Dark Forest is the first full-chain game to integrate the fog of war. The team developed this game to explore zero-knowledge proof technology, and they use zero-knowledge proof to hide the location information of other players from players in the game.
Dark Forest is a real-time strategy game on the chain, and players fight in space
Development of Web3 Native Games
Full-chain games are a relatively niche track in the Web3 ecosystem, but there are still some community members, researchers, and developers actively exploring the boundaries of full-chain games.